Sunday, September 27, 2009

Meal plans and the week ahead

It'll be another crazy week this week. Kevin is leaving for Germany this afternoon. He's going for work, so it'll be a quick trip and he'll be home on Thursday. We'll miss him while he's gone! It's hard being a single working mama while he's away, so I'll be taking it easy on meals. We're also starting a swim class this week on Wednesday - gotta keep our little man loving the water! :) So that will be a lot of fun. Friday is my flex day, but I haven't decided what Carson and I will do yet. We'll probably go visit Apple and Poppy (what Carson has decided to call one set of his great-grandparents) in the morning and then probably just hang out at home in the afternoon to try to get the house in order for Saturday. My friend, Lina, her husband, Sean, and daughter, Vayla, are coming over on Saturday to hang out. Kevin is going to teach Sean how to change the brakes on their G6, while Lina and I have playtime with Vayla and Carson. The kids are almost exactly a month apart (Vayla is one month older than Carson) and have played together a couple of times now and play together very well, so we're looking forward to it.

Our garden is still producing lots of yummy veggies - zucchini, green beans, brussels sprouts, potatoes, carrots, buttercup squash. So I am still doing lots of freezing of veggies and trying to eat as much fresh as possible. I realized this past week that out bosc pear trees are producing good fruit this year, so I've been picking lots of pears. I've got them in cold storage right now, but I'm really hoping to make a couple batches of pearsauce this week and get it canned. I'd like to do sliced pears, too, but the pearsauce is much easier to prep when I'm on my own since you don't have to peel the fruit for that. So that will be my focus.

Like I said, its a pretty simple, easy week of meals, for the most part.... and pretty much involve many of Carson's favorites.

Sunday - baked chicken breasts, smashed baked potatoes, steamed green beans, sliced apples and pears

Meatless Monday
- herbed baked eggs, steamed broccoli, whole wheat toast with home-canned raspberry jam

- hot dogs, baked zucchini fries, watermelon and grapes

Wednesday - swim class tonight, so we need something portable since we'll probably eat in the car... PB&J sandwiches, sliced co-jack cheese, apple slices

Thursday - Kevin comes home! We'll do his favorite and grill steaks to welcome him home. If I have time to prep it the night before, I'll do a veggie gratin to go with the steaks... Otherwise we'll just do grilled baked potatoes. Also, brussels sprouts sauteed with EVOO and balsamic; grapes, apples, and pears.

Friday - its my flex Friday! I think I'll do a crockpot rotisserie chicken, vegetable tian, sliced pears and apples

Saturday - first off, GO GREEN!!!! (They're playing UofM today). Lina, Sean, and Vayla are coming over. The menu is TBD at this point... something easy is a must... its been decided... crockpot broccoli cheese soup; beer bread; fruit salad with apples, pears, grapes; some type of dessert

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mac anc Cheese with Tomato and Squash

Over the weekend, I saw one of Paula Deen's shows featuring a tomato mac and cheese recipe. I've been wanting to try adding pureed fall squash to macaroni and cheese for awhile now, so I figured I'd give it a try on Monday. I don't generally make many of Paula's recipes, even though they're always delicious, but they're also so full of fat/butter. But I figured we could splurge and try out her recipe for tomato mac and cheese. I pretty much used her recipe as written and just mixed in about a cup and a half of pureed buttercup squash from my garden. You could use frozen, too. This was very good and I felt a little better about eating it with some veggies incorporated. You really could not taste the squash at all - Kevin actually ate squash and didn't have a clue!! :) And I only had one tomato left, so there's not a lot of tomato on top - I wish I had had another one to use. Its definitely a keeper, but not something I'll make often just for the fat issue. :)

Tomato Mac and Cheese with Squash

4 tablespoons butter, plus more for baking dish
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (I used organic whole wheat cavatappi)
2 tablespoons minced onion
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
3/4 tablespoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 cups milk
(I added 1 1/2 cups pureed fall squash)
3 cups shredded Cheddar, divided (I only used about 2 cups)
2 ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices (I only had 1)
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish.

Bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the macaroni and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring constantly, until tender. Add the flour, salt, dry mustard, and paprika; mix well. Stir in the milk and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. (Add pureed squash here.) Add 2 cups of the shredded cheese and stir until melted. Toss in the macaroni and pour into the prepared dish. Cover the macaroni with tomato slices and season salt and pepper, to taste. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The last few minutes, top with the remaining cheese and return to the oven until the cheese melts. (I didn't think this step was necessary, so I skipped it.) Serve hot.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Meal plans and the week ahead

I hit up a few farmers' markets again this week. I haven't really had the time to get to many these last couple of weeks, really... just one a week lately. I hadn't been to the local Allen Street neighborhood market in Lansing in a month, I think. I had a chance to make a trip over there this past Wednesday, though. It was good to visit with the vendors again and pick up some organic produce. I picked up some beautifully colored heirloom tomatoes, 8 of them, yellow, orange, pink, and green (even when they're ripe) ones... and wow, they're absolutely delicious! I've never understood how people could eat a tomato like an apple, but I could understand it with these tomatoes, they're so very tasty. I also picked up some spinach - which I turned into spinach pesto and have frozen in cubes; some pattypan squash - which we ate sauteed with some EVOO and garlic as a side dish with dinner; a super sweet watermelon - which we've snacked on all week; some leeks - which I'll be using in meals this week; and a quart of local nectarines - which we've been snacking on all week.

On Thursday, I visited another of the enormous annual farmers' markets held on the Capitol lawn. The fall one is always the best - such tasty treats and beautiful flowers. I picked up one bunch of beets, a honeyrock melon, a peck of gala apples, two kinds of local/organic goat cheese, a dip mix for veggies, some blueberry coffee (yum!), and some dog treats for Jet.

I accomplished quite a bit of work in the garden this past week. The harvest of zucchini and green/yellow beans still continues to be going strong, though I'm really expecting it to phase out here very soon with these cool temperatures. I harvested our first potatoes, buttercup squash, and brussels sprouts! I also picked and shelled the rest of my cannellini beans and have them lying out on a screen on the counter to continue drying. I harvested another round of basil and made another huge batch of pesto. I think I'll probably do one more batch to freeze and call it good for the season in terms of pesto. I also just chopped up some of the basil and froze it into cubes with a little water to add to dishes this winter.

Anyway, on to the meals...

Sunday ~ a meatless meal... whole wheat penne pasta with fresh roasted red pepper goat cheese, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, basil, garlic, and EVOO; roasted beets; honeyrock melon and raspberries

Meatless Monday ~ macaroni and cheese with veggies; spinach salad with dried cherries, chopped fresh local pears, and mozzarella; honeyrock melon and raspberries

Tuesday ~ grilled chicken; spinach salad with dried cherries, chopped fresh local pears, and mozzarella; creamy brussels sprouts; sliced apples

Wednesday ~ meatloaf with grated zucchini and carrots mixed into it; roasted potatoes, carrots, and zucchini from our garden; fresh, local peaches and nectarines

Thursday ~ It'll be a late night for me, as I have to be in Windsor until 5pm... so I think we'll just eat leftovers from the week.

Friday ~ TBD... we might be going to another parade in the early evening. It just depends on how we've been using up our leftovers from the week - if we have enough, we'll just have leftovers for dinner. If not, then I'll do a TBD crockpot meal.

Saturday ~ We'll be going to my nephew's football game in the morning and then heading over to my in-laws' house in the afternoon for a family party and dinner. I believe we're having chips and salsa, bruschetta, pizza, salad?, jello, cake, and ice cream

As for extras this week... my focus is pears... buying them today at the farmers' market... letting them ripen up a bit before processing them into home-canned pearsauce and sliced pears. Can't wait! I'll also be making up a batch of the ABin5 dough so that I can make my own baguettes for the bruschetta on Saturday. And, of course, still working in the garden - harvesting and pulling plants getting ready to prep the garden for spring. That should keep me plenty busy in the evenings.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Crockpot Thai Peanut Noodles

Tonight we had a crockpot meal that I found on 365 Days of Slow Cooking, which is a blog by Karen, a SAHM that has set a goal of using the crockpot everyday for a year... this goal seems to be a theme these days, doesn't it? It seems like there are so many blogs devoted to this same task. I love it because I find lots of tasty new recipes! And who doesn't like to use their crockpot? It really can't get any easier to prepare a healthy, great-tasting meal that is waiting for you when you get home! Anyway, back to the meal... this was very good - we all ate it and enjoyed it. It has a wonderful flavor. Kevin and I both added a few squirts of Sriracha chili sauce for a little kick, but its definitely not necessary. Very easy prep and I loved that there was grated zucchini in the sauce and its totally hidden. Its a great way to sneak in even more veggies with kids (and picky husbands!). :)

Thai Peanut Noodles

12 oz. linguine or spaghetti, cooked (I used buckwheat noodles)
2 garlic cloves
2/3 c. chunky peanut butter
1 cube chicken bouillon (I used Organic Better than Bouillon)
1 cup water
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 c. shredded zucchini (I used more than this... probably about 1 2/3 cups or so... a medium zucchini)
1/3 c. soy sauce
1-2 tsp sugar
(Sriracha chili sauce, optional and to taste)

Dissolve the bouillon into water.

Add garlic, peanut butter, bouillon, chicken, zucchini, soy sauce, and sugar to a 3 quart crockpot (I used a 4-quart). Cook on low for 4-5 hours or high for 2-3 hours. Stir until smooth.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta to al dente. Serve chicken and sauce over pasta.

Garnish with peanuts, if desired (I did not).

Serves 4.

(Adding some grated carrots would be great in this, too... I'd eliminate the sugar then, I think, since carrots are so sweet.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Meal plans and the week ahead

September sure is flying on by us, isn't it? It's already mid-September and it seems like the month just began a couple days ago! At least we're not quite as busy this week as we were last week... maybe it'll slow it down a little... haha, fat chance, right? :)

I didn't get a whole lot done in terms of preservation this past week, just too busy. I picked up some huge heads of cauliflower at the farmers' market and roasted all four of them. I then pureed about 80% of it and froze the purees to add into things later on. I froze some more zucchini dices and fries; as well as some more beans and some carrots. I think that's about it for this past week...

We're trying to use the grill for some meals this week since we may not have many more weeks that we can use it. And I'm trying to work in some side salads with some of our dinners this week. Kevin and I both love salad and we definitely don't eat enough of it. I have some issues that prevent me from eating it at lunch very often, so I can usually only have it at dinnertime. We ate a lot of salad when our lettuce/spinach was coming in, but haven't really eaten many since then and I totally didn't realize it till now. Lettuce and spinach are readily available at the farmers' markets again, so I figured its a good time to add them back into our meals. I also realized that Carson has never tried lettuce or raw spinach, so we'll see how that goes over this week. He loves to dip things, so I think I'll give him a small dribble of salad dressing to dip some small pieces of lettuce in and see what he thinks. Let's hope he loves it! Though, my guess is that it will take a few times before he enjoys it.

Sunday ~ crockpot salsa chicken; steamed organic brown rice; chopped avocado for topping; home-canned peaches

Meatless Monday ~ huevos rancheros; fresh honeyrock melon

Tuesday ~ It'll be a late night for me with legislative hearings in the afternoon, so something easy is key... tacos using the leftover shredded crockpot salsa chicken from Sunday; organic refried beans (doctored up a bit); mandarin oranges

Wednesday ~ grilled rib steak; romaine salad with cukes and cherry tomatoes from the garden, cheese; sauteed green beans, zucchini, carrots (all from garden), and cauliflower (from farmers' market) in garlic and EVOO; fresh grapes and honeyrock melon

Thursday ~ grilled chicken breasts; romaine salad with mandarin oranges, home-dried cherries, mozzarella, pecans (for me, not Kevin since he's allergic); grilled corn on the cob; grilled zucchini from the garden; fresh grapes, pears, and mango

Friday ~ Its my flex day! I'll be taking Carson to the Swartz Creek Homecoming Parade, so I think we'll need a crockpot meal since the parade doesn't even start till 5:00. I think I'll do thai peanut noodles; romaine salad with cukes, cherry tomatoes, cheese; fresh grapes and pears

Saturday ~ If the weather holds up, we'll be going out to Tivoli Gardens in the morning for the MSU RipFest ski tournament. Then we'll be dropping Carson off for an overnight stay with Nana and Papa and heading to Lansing for a wedding and reception for some friends of ours in the late afternoon/evening.

There is another huge farmers' market at the State Capitol on Thursday this week. The fall one is always the best and I'm looking forward to it! Hopefully I'll find lots of great things again this time! I'm hoping to pick up some pears so I can do up some sliced pears and pearsauce soon. We definitely will need quite a bit of both since we all love pears and pearsauce, so I'll probably pick up a half-bushel to start with. I'm thinking I'll end up getting another half-bushel in another week or so... one of the half-bushels for pearsauce and one for sliced pears probably. I really need to get our pear trees trimmed down and under control so that I can finally use my own home-grown pears next year, hopefully! All of the fruit trees are absolutely loaded with fruit this year, which stinks because I can't use it! I'll do the winter dormant pruning like you're supposed to so that I hopefully don't put the tree into too much shock with the amount of pruning I plan to do. And then keep my fingers crossed for a good production next year!

Other than that, I doubt I'll do much else extra since I'm trying to catch up from last week still. I'll be working on getting all my fall and Halloween decorations up still. I was able to get some of them up last week, but not all of them, so I want to finish it up. I think that's about it for this week. Hopefully I'll have a little more time next week... though it's looking doubtful...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Kourkouto with Zucchini

I found this recipe on Kalofagas a while back and thought it sounded tasty. (If you haven't seen Peter's blog, you really should check it out. He has some awesome recipes on there! I've tried several and have posted them on this blog, but there are so many more that I want to try!) This dish sounded kind of similar to the zucchini casserole I make regularly, but with a greek twist from the greek cheeses and different spices. Having such a bumper crop of zucchini, I also figured that now was the perfect time to try it! This was delicious! Its sort of like a thicker quiche, if that makes sense. We all loved it - the taste, the texture, everything! This is a definite keeper. We ate it as a main dish, but it could make a great side dish, too. I did cut the recipe back a little since I didn't think we needed a 15x10 pan for the three of us. Even with leftovers, that seemed like a lot. I used an 8x10 pan and it was plenty for dinner and some lunches for all three of us. I will update later with a picture.

Kourkouto With Zucchini

5 large eggs (organic, free-range, local)
1 cup of strained Greek yogurt
1 cup of self-rising flour (I just used regular organic flour and added a little extra baking powder)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup olive oil (organic)
3 bunches of scallions, finely chopped (organic)
3 zucchinis, diced (from the garden)
(I added a diced green pepper from the garden since it was in the fridge)
1 cup Feta cheese, crumbled (organic)
1 cup Kasseri, grated (I actually found Kasseri at my local market, but if you can't you can use a mild cheddar instead)
1 cup of chopped fresh dill (I used dried)
ground pepper to taste
sweet paprika to taste (and for garnish)
slices of zucchini rounds (for finishing... I left them off b/c I forgot to keep a few out for this)
a 15″ X 10″ baking tray, greased with vegetable oil (I used a smaller pan - I think its 8x10)

Pre-heated 350F oven

Into a large skillet, add your olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add your chopped onions and diced zucchini (with some salt) and saute over medium heat for about 20 minutes to soften and have most of the water content evaporate (should reduce to about half). Take off the heat and reserve.

In a large bowl, whisk your eggs for a couple of minutes until mixed well and then add your flour and baking powder and mix in. Add your yogurt and stir in to mix.

Now add your grated cheeses and sauteed vegetables and mix to incorporate. Add some ground black pepper and sweet paprika. Have a taste and adjust seasoning (probably will not need any salt).

Stir in the the chopped fresh dill and pour the mixture into your greased baking dish. Top with round slices of zucchini and sprinkle some sweet paprika over the entire mixture.

Place on the middle rack of your pre-heated oven and baked for approx. 1 hour. Allow to rest for about 15 minutes and then cut up into slices. Serve warm or room temperature with a side salad.

Kraut Bierock

This is a long-time favorite family recipe from my maternal grandmother's family. My grandma is 100% german. She is the second-youngest of 12 children, the youngest children were born here in the U.S., but the rest of the bunch were all born in Germany before my great-grandparents moved the family to America. This is a dish that my grandma grew up eating and she and her sisters have all kept the recipe alive in their families to date. When my grandma pronounces the name of this dish, it sounds more like grau-be-duk... at least that's how it sounds to me. I never knew how to spell it until this past week! :)

We planted a bunch of cabbage in our garden this year just so we could make up some large batches of some family-favorite recipes. I had some of my family over last Friday to make up some traditional dishes - enough for everyone to take home and have fresh and for leftovers and enough to fill my freezer with some great meals for the winter! We just made the kraut bierock filling to freeze - I'll make the dough when it comes time to eat them. And I didn't take a picture of the filling - I totally forgot. If you don't want to make the dough, you could use the ready-made crescent roll dough from the store. I've done that before, actually, and it was pretty good. Anyway... on to the recipe.

Kraut Bierock

1 cup oil (I omitted all of this)
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 large sliced onions (I used about 1 1/2 huge onions)
3 pounds sliced cabbage

6-6 1/2 cups flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
2 cups warm water
2 packages dry yeast

Dissolve the yeast in warm water. Pour yeast liquid into flour mixture (flour, sugar, salt). Knead until bowl is clean. Lastly, need in the butter for about 5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl. Let rise. Punch down once. Cover and let rise until doubled.

Combine the oil, beef, salt, and pepper in a large pan and cook until meat is done. Add onions and cabbage. Cover, cook about 30 minutes. Stir several times.

Divide dough into 2 parts. Roll out to about 1/4" thick. Cut into squares - 5"x5". Place filling in middle of each square. Draw up corners and seal seams by pinching together. Place on a cookie sheet, seam side down, let rise 20 minutes. Brush top with shortening. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

(You can adjust the amount of cabbage and onions to your liking. I put more cabbage and less onions usually. And don't forget the cabbage cooks down a lot, so keep that in mind when you're adding it raw.)


I canned peaches last year and said I'd probably never do it again until we had our own peach tree to make it a little more economical once you factor in all the time it takes to prep and can the peaches. Well, my SIL Mary received some fabulous tips from her in-laws on canning peaches that save sooooo much time and effort, so I decided to give them a try again this year afterall. I canned them about two weeks ago now and did 32 pints! Not bad at all compared to my 5 pints last year! The crazy thing is... I think I did the 32 pints in LESS time than it took me to do the 5 pints! This is definitely the way to do peaches! Mary posted the method on her blog last week, too, so I've just copied and pasted her description below.

The Easy Way to Can Peaches

Prep jars, lids and canner
Make simple syrup (I did a light syrup...2 1/2-3 cups sugar in about 11 cups water)
Prep treatment solution (I just sprinkled with some Fruit Fresh)
Wash peaches
Cut peaches in half
Remove pit
Quarter peaches if necessary
Place peaches in treatment solution
When all peaches are ready drain solution
Place peaches in hot jars, cut side down if possible
Cover with syrup
Secure lid and band
Process in boiling canner 25 min. for pints, 30 min. for quarts

Once you are ready to use the peaches, the peels will just slide right off.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Meal plans and the week ahead

We have a busy week ahead... my cousins Kristin and Joe are in town from Florida, my Aunt Sandy and Uncle Bob will be in town from Oklahoma, and Jaime and Jeff will be in town from Arizona, so we'll be seeing them all this week at different points. We're having a baby shower for Kristin on Thursday night. I have to work Friday (which I am totally not looking forward to). And Saturday we'll pretty much be on the go all day. So here's the plan....

Sunday - we'll be at my Aunt Jeri's for our Labor Day family party... grilled hot dogs, brats, and sausages; potato salad; jello salad; fruit; zucchini cake; and who knows what else
Meatless Monday - we're going to Lansing for lunch for Kevin's Grandpa's birthday... we're not sure yet what our plans are for afterwards... maybe doing something fun in Lansing/East Lansing, maybe heading home and heading up to the Mexican restaurant in Grand Blanc with Kristin, Joe, and friends for dinner...
Tuesday - leftover golabki; roasted carrots, zucchini, cauliflower; fresh pears, peaches, and grapes
Wednesday - kind of TBD, maybe a greek meatless dish to use up some zucchini.... or maybe zucchini casserole... sides are also TBD
Thursday - I am helping to throw my cousin, Kristin, a baby shower tonight. Carson and I will eat at the shower, Kevin will have leftovers.
Friday - it'll be my first Friday to work in quite awhile... a crockpot meal sounds like a plan... chicken parmesan in the crockpot; sauteed green beans, zucchini, and carrots (all from garden) in garlic and EVOO; fresh mango and pineapple
Saturday - a busy day... possibly brunch at my BFF Jaime's mom's house; then possibly out to Lake Jepawhit for a slalom tournament (if we don't make it today, we'll go check it out on Sunday); then to my cousins' Josh's and Mandy's for their 10-year wedding vow renewal and cookout reception; then hopefully to Lisa's house for a party for Jaime and Jeff.

I don't think I'll have any time at all for extras this week. If I do anything extra, it will be digging out my fall and Halloween decorations and putting them up, but its not a priority this week. I'm starting to feel like I'm falling behind on some things or running out of time to do them (like canning salsa, doing a couple outdoor craft projects with Carson, things like that..), but I guess if I don't get them done, then oh well. I didn't expect September to be quite so busy... but hopefully we can find the time to finish up some things before the weather turns bad (like finishing the fence, getting Lola, cleaning the gutters, winterizing things, selling one of the cars (Imark), etc.). It'll be tough to fit it all in, but we'll have to manage. I feel like we need a week's vacation to just work on projects at the ranch... Especially when we factor in Kevin being gone a week to Germany for work this month....

Anyway, I know I'll be harvesting more veggies from the garden this week... zucchini, beans, carrots, peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cabbage mostly. The brussels sprouts are growing and are getting close to be ready, I think. And the fall squash is out of control... I won't know what to do with it all! The garden is definitely keeping us well-fed and keeping me busy this year! Its great!